Phone, Internet & TV Providers
Ads that feature a price or refer to a promotional offer should make clear that a contract applies. If the contract is of an unusual length, e.g. 36 months then that length must also be indicated in the ad.
Savings & Price Offers
For price savings claims and saving comparisons by telecommunication and media companies, Radiocentre requires detailed, thorough supporting evidence to ensure that advertisements are fair and not misleading.
To follow is a quick, but by no means exhaustive, guide to getting such claims cleared for broadcast:
- advertisements which make comparative price savings claims must make clear which competitors the saving applies to; in particular, it should be clear whether the saving applies to the whole market or just part of it.
- savings claims must be made on a like for like basis; for example, they should include the effect of competitor discounts or make clear that discounts are excluded from the comparison;
- where general price savings claims are made, e.g. “save money on your phone bill”, evidence must be provided which shows that the advertiser’s tariffs are less expensive for all the different types of call (e.g. peak/off-peak and local/national/international rates) and that the standing charge is lower;
- where specific price savings claims are made, e.g. “save 15% on your phone bill”, evidence must be provided which shows that this level of saving applies across all types of call. In some cases, further qualification in the copy itself is required, e.g. “save 15% on your phone bill for local evening calls”;
- qualified claims, e.g. “you could save 10% on your phone bill” must be accompanied by an indication of the circumstances in which the potential discount can be achieved;
- if particular discount schemes of a competitor, e.g. low user schemes, are excluded from the advertiser’s desired price saving comparison, this must be stated in the copy.
Where an introductory price is given that applies to the first months of a contract, the higher monthly price for the remainder of the contract should also be given.
Ads offering inclusive or unlimited minutes must make clear what types of numbers are included, e.g. “Calls to standard UK landlines & mobiles”.
Where there is a fair use policy for unlimited packages, this must be made clear in the ad, e.g. “fair use policy applies”.
For general offers by television companies (e.g. digital/cable/satellite providers) and/or by companies which offer combined television/telecommunication packages, the following points should also be considered:
- where a script mentions that the cost of a package, all charges should be included, e.g. installation and connection.
- the advertisement must make clear if availability of the relevant service is limited (e.g. availability may be dependent on region, or it may be that a service is not fully rolled out when advertisements are to be broadcast);
- claims relating to combined television and telephone packages, (e.g. “12 digital channels and telephone calls for £40 per month”), should make clear exactly which calls are included in that price. This can be achieved either by stating it within the script, e.g. “12 channels and local and national calls for £x…per month” or by including a statement at the end of the advertisement such as ‘excludes calls to mobile phones, non-geographic, internet and premium rate services’;
- it must be clear to listeners if they are required to sign a minimum term contract in order to take advantage of an offer that is mentioned in an advertisement;
- where a particular programme is being advertised, scripts should make clear if reception of the programme is subject to certain coverage, unless clearers are satisfied that the advertisement will be broadcast only in the areas where coverage is assured.
Broadband & Internet
Broadband speed claims are subject to the BCAP Help Note Use of speed claims in broadband advertising. The following points should be considered:
- headline speeds should always be qualified by “up to” and the top speed must be achievable by at least 10% of customers. Ads must make clear which element of the service it relates to (e.g. “download” speed);
- ADSL internet services must make clear that “top speeds vary – conditions apply”;
All providers must indicate the existence of a policy to regulate usage at peak times that may affect the speed of the service (e.g. “subject to network capacity”);
- Comparative speed claims must be based on reliable publicly-available data relating to end-user download speeds rather than estimates based on network hardware, etc. Ads should refer listeners to where they can obtain the full comparative data (e.g. “see www.[broadbandprovider].com/speed”).
- Broadband services can only be described as “superfast” where they run at 30 megabits per second (Mbps) or greater.
Claims to offer “unlimited” broadband are not acceptable where the service provider levies additional charges, suspends or significantly reduces the service for exceeding a usage threshold under a Fair Use Policy (FUP) or traffic management policy. This applies even in relation to a threat of suspension. Claims of “unlimited” may be acceptable, however, where limitations are applied to the speed or usage of the service where a usage threshold is exceeded, providing that these are “moderate”. The ASA have ruled that a cut in some users’ download speeds of 50% is not “moderate” and “unlimited downloads” was therefore a misleading claim by the advertiser. That is not to say that all cuts below 50% are acceptable; a cut of, say 40%, may still be unacceptable.
If the service offered is limited to cabled areas or to specific exchanges/geographical areas, this must be made clear.
If a monthly price is given and the advertiser’s line rental must be purchased, the cost of line rental should be given immediately after the monthly price.
If a monthly price is given and installation charges apply, this should be made clear in the script.
Where a top speed or average speed is given, advertisers must supply evidence showing that these speeds are based on figures from “real world” customers, i.e. not notional speeds based on the hardware itself.